Students want U to cast a wide net in president search

Tracy Ellingson

During the search for a new University leader, students have found a recurring theme among the school’s former presidents — each has been white and male.
A group of seven University students gathered in the President’s Room of Coffman Union on Wednesday in an open meeting to determine what they want in a new University president. The students said they would like a leader who is sensitive to diversity issues, can relate to students and faculty and will be open to consult with students.
Students at the meeting also said they would like Presidential Search Advisory Board Committee members to consider candidates from all backgrounds, but agreed that gender or color alone will not make a “diverse” leader.
“Even a white male can be diverse if he’s sensitive to diversity,” Minnesota Student Association President Helen Phin said.
University President Nils Hasselmo has said he plans to retire in June. School officials started the search committee to find a replacement last June.
Matt Musel, former MSA president and the only student on the search committee has said he wants students’ feedback to help him select the best president.
University junior Emmanuel Ortiz said, “If (the new president) is able to promote diversity in the University community, I’m not going to bias against the color of skin they are.”
Ortiz said that it may be difficult, however, to find a president who comes from “mainstream, traditional” background who deeply understands diversity issues.
Ortiz said he doesn’t believe Hasselmo has this depth of understanding. He said that the president’s U2000 plan is an example of his lack of understanding of diversity. Ortiz said that increasingly stringent admission requirements and last year’s proposed overhaul of the University’s General College were specific examples of the University turning to a more private than public school atmosphere.
College of Liberal Arts junior Aimee Tsuchiya said she feels there are many qualified candidates who have the diverse background that the students mentioned.
“I think if the selection committee and the regents are receptive to (candidates with a diverse background), then it won’t be difficult to pull together,” she said.
Phin plans to hold another student meeting to discuss leadership qualities in the next president. The discussion will take place before the next regents meeting so students can present their input to the selection committee.